While poor weather and reckless driving were some of the factors behind the fatal car crashes over the holiday period, experts say it might be time to add barriers on some of the country’s national roads.
Bioethicist Dr Lee Randall said a lot of roads in SA did not have barriers and these undivided highways were the most dangerous road designs in the world. She said ideally there should be an island between traffic in one direction and traffic in the other.
“If there isn’t room for an island, then you want some sort of barrier… our road design in SA is problematic in lots of ways,” she said.
“And with that design change, the number of head-on collisions would be reduced. Head-ons are more likely to have fatalities.”
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She said while roads were graded according to the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) with lots of elements of road design that go into ensuring safety, in SA there was more focus on human behaviour and not nearly enough on road design that should guide human behaviour.
“Ideally all roads in the country should be graded by at least three stars – proper benchmarking, a proper centre marking,” she said.
“Indications of the road curving left or right and those kinds of design features contribute to the safety of the road, along with surfacing, how sharp the bends are. The gentler the curves, the less dangerous it is.”
However, Arrive Alive’s JW Jonck said although barriers were necessary, they could not be used to avoid head-on crashes as there were many major contributing factors such as bad weather.
“SA has at least 750,000km of road and it’s impossible to have barriers everywhere. Some places are dangerous and the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) should look into having more barriers on those roads.
“But unfortunately most of our head-on collisions are either as a result of drunk driving, driver fatigue, or distracted driving. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said 822 people lost their lives this month before Christmas.